Red Cross copyright claim

Prison Architect singled out by Red Cross Copyright Claim

Here’s an amusing fact that has surfaced over the weekend: Video games using the “Red Cross” symbol are violating Geneva Conventions.

I can’t say it’s something I’ve ever thought of before, but Introversion (the creators of Prison Architect) have been told exactly this. Apparently the use of that universally recognised health pack symbol is protected by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The organisation is young at 150 years old, and the symbol is protected by these guys under the Geneva Conventions.

Introversion got an email from the British Red Cross informing them that they’d violated the convention, PC gamer reported:

“My immediate reason for writing is that it has been brought to our attention that in your game ‘Prison Architect’ a Red Cross emblem is displayed on vehicles”. The email goes on to inform the dev they may be unaware of the protected status of the symbol under the 1949 Geneva Conventions but that unauthorised use is an offence under the Geneva Conventions Act of 1957.

Presumably they want the symbol changed ASAP.

What gets me about this though is why have they suddenly singled out this indie dev when the symbol is in wide use across video games? It’s bloody everywhere… To name but a few games that utilise the “red cross” to signify health:

  • Half Life ^2
  •  Bioshock
  •  Halo
  •  DOOM

I mean, we don’t have all day so I’ll stop there, but that should display the scope.

Some dev’s have cleverly gotten around the issues surrounding this logo, one prime example is Activision-Blizzard who have used a slightly distorted red cross on their health packs.

Chris Delay makes a good point when speaking to PC Gamer in reference to the complaint from the British Red Cross, he says what we’re all thinking: “In my mind… The red cross is the universal symbol for health packs.. anything to do with healing in video games”

We all agree, right, that in a video game you don’t want to be looking up what the various symbols mean in order to play? As a player you want a game to be as easy and quick to learn as possible. As a developer you want meaning to be conveyed quickly and conveniently with no need to reinvent the wheel.

It seems Introversion have been singled out because they are a British Based developer and the Geneva Convention is incorporated into our law, so it might just be that it was easier to go after them.

It’s also important to note that the Red Cross is not the only copyrighted symbol out there; there are thousands that we take for granted in day-to-day life. I just hope that this case against Introversion doesn’t bring other copyright hounds out of the woodwork.


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Resident "Destiny Expert" for Last Life Club. I play anything and everything and can usually find a positive thing to say about any game (With the exception of Sonic 2006).